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Small mammals in a mosaic of forest remnants and anthropogenic habitats--evaluating matrix quality in an Atlantic forest landscape

Umetsu, Fabiana, Pardini, Renata
Landscape ecology 2007 v.22 no.4 pp. 517-530
biogeography, buildings, ecosystems, forests, habitat destruction, habitats, humans, indigenous species, landscapes, plantations, rural areas, small mammals, surveys, tropics
The matrix of altered habitats that surrounds remnants in human dominated landscapes has been considered homogeneous and inhospitable. Recent studies, however, have shown the crucial role of the matrix in maintaining diversity in fragmented landscapes, acting as a mosaic of units with varying permeability to different species. Inclusion of matrix quality parameters is especially urgent in managing fragmented landscapes in the tropics where agriculture frontiers are still expanding. Using standardized surveys in 23 sites in an Atlantic forest landscape, we evaluated matrix use by small mammals, the most diverse ecological group of mammals in the Neotropics, and tested the hypothesis that endemic species are the most affected by the conversion of original forest into anthropogenic habitats. By comparing species distribution among forest remnants and the predominant adjacent habitats (native vegetation in initial stages of regeneration, eucalyptus plantations, areas of agriculture and rural areas with buildings), we found a strong dissimilarity in small mammal assemblages between native vegetation (including initial stages) and anthropogenic habitats, with only two species being able to use all habitats. Endemic small mammals tended to occupy native vegetation, whereas invading species from other countries or open biomes tended to occupy areas of non-native vegetation. Our results highlight that future destruction of native vegetation will favor invading or generalist species which could dominate highly disturbed landscapes, and that some matrix habitats, such as regenerating native vegetation, should be managed to increase connectivity among populations of endemic species.